For someone with a decade-long career at the Fashion Department of the Royal Academy of Arts in Antwerp, Anne Kurris is unfailingly modest. “I’m inclined to minimise my personal input in the success of my former design students,” she insists. “My task is too limited.”
In addition to teaching the graphic design course, Kurris advises Master's students on their portfolios and assists them with their prints when needed. In this capacity, she’s arguably one of the crucial intermediary influences, just before the students graduate and prepare themselves for their first steps out of academia into the professional fashion industry.
Kurris observes: “To succeed, a student needs to have a strong personality, passion and perseverance because the fashion training in Antwerp is difficult and demands the ultimate from its students.” On the other hand, the diploma in itself is not an automatic recipe for success. “I know many successful designers who did not pass for their studies but are autodidacts,” she points out. “You need to have a very personal signature, and I believe you have to be rebellious. It’s your idiosyncrasies that need to be communicated to an audience.”
"To succeed, a student needs to have a strong personality, passion and perseverance"
During her own studies in graphic design at the Royal Academy and St Lucas in Antwerp, Kurris met Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Beirendonck and the other Belgian designers who where part of "The Antwerp Six."
Since those days, she’s seen the Fashion Department evolve and grow. “The school has become more grand, the collections have expanded and each time it baffles me how elaborately the students execute their collections in other areas, not just the accessories but in how they approach their lookbooks and installations. Sometimes it can be over the top!” The increasing number of international students is something Kurris believes has only contributed to the school’s success. “It has led to a cross-pollination of cultures. It’s wonderful and stimulating how the small town of Antwerp now functions as a meeting point for passionate youngsters the world over.”
It’s this half-a-century-strong legacy of nurturing talent and creativity that the Fashion Department is celebrating with an exhibition in Antwerp’s Fashion Museum, named Happy Birthday Dear Academie. Kurris helped out with the graphic design side of the show, which illustrates the history of the Academy and was conceived by the graphic designer Paul Boudens, a former student of Kurris's. Working on it inevitably stirred a wave of emotion. “I’m incredibly proud to be a part of the Fashion Department’s 50-year existence. I’m very aware of the uniqueness of this period of time. I look back on the years when I met Walter, Dirk, Dries and the other ‘Antwerp Six’ with great affection.”
Happy Birthday Dear Academie is currently at Antwerp’s Fashion Museum (MoMu) and runs until 16 February 2014.
Text by Siska Lyssens